Airlines see sharply lower losses in 2022, recovery in sight

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: A passenger plane passes in front of the moon as it makes its final landing approach to Heathrow Airport in London

By Rajesh Kumar Singh

BOSTON (Reuters) -Global airlines on Monday projected a sharp reduction in industry losses next year as a multi-speed recovery from the coronavirus crisis gets under way, but revised up the financial toll inflicted by the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

The International Air Transport Association, the industry's main trade body, predicted that net losses at airlines would narrow to $11.6 billion in 2022 from $51.8 billion this year.

The losses for 2021 were revised up from $47.7 billion estimated in April. IATA also revised up losses for 2020 to $137.7 billion from $126.4 billion estimated earlier.

While airlines across all regions are expected to perform better, those in North America are forecast to return to profit next year.

"We are past the deepest point of the crisis," IATA Director General Willie Walsh told the group's annual meeting. "While serious issues remain, the path to recovery is coming into view."

Yet, IATA urged governments to keep wage support measures and slot wavers in place until international traffic recovers.

It expects international travel demand to double next year and reach 44% of the 2019 levels. However, the vaccination rate as well as the lifting of government-imposed border restrictions will determine the pace of recovery.

"People ... are being held back from international travel by restrictions, uncertainty and complexity," said Walsh.

As governments are viewing inoculations as a way out of the health crisis, Walsh said vaccines need to be made available to anybody who wants them.

Domestic travel demand is estimated to reach 93% of the pre-pandemic level in 2022 - an improvement of 20 percentage points from this year.

Total passenger numbers are expected to increase to 3.4 billion next year from 2.3 billion in 2021, IATA estimates, but will be below 4.5 billion in 2019.

Passenger revenue in 2022 is expected to jump about 67% year-on-year to $378 billion. Air cargo is forecast to remain a bright spot, with demand seen rising 13.2% above the 2019 levels, IATA said.

(Reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh, Editing by Tim Hepher, Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)

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